Posts Tagged ‘PBS’

PBS’s “Mr. Selfridge” Stirs Memories of my London Experience

May 13, 2013

As I watch the extraordinary  United Kingdom ITV series “Mr. Selfridge” on PBS, I have to reflect on my department store experiences in London.  I’m not sure whether I went into Selfridge’s, but I went into a department store in the posh Kensington section of London and bought a British-style hat.  I bought the hat so I would blend in with the folks on the sidewalks. It didn’t work. No one else was wearing a hat like that. Everybody was wearing baseball-style caps just like the ones in the good old USA.

I definitely visited Harrod’s and Fortnum Mason.  Both lived up to their reputations. They were shows within themselves. Harrod’s is huge, the largest department store in Europe and has extraordinary merchandize displays.  Selfridge’s is the second largest in the U.K. Fortnum Mason is not all that big, has only a few departments, but is luxurious and patronized by the Royal family. Queen Elizabeth has visited the store herself.  It is also  famous for its many restaurants and its high tea service.

Visiting those stores helped me understand why a department store could be a tourist attraction.  Harry Selfridge, the American who founded Selfridge’s in 1909, said that he wanted his store to be a shopping adventure. That’s what you get in the world-famous department stores in London.

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TV is not the Wasteland that it Once Was

June 4, 2012

Television may still be a wasteland, but no longer a vast one.  Former Federal Communications Chairman Newton Minow, who was appointed to the FCC by President John F. Kennedy in 1961, coined the “vast wasteland” phrase in a speech to the National Association of Broadcasters, complaining of the endless junk on commercial TV at the time.  

Newton Minow (Photo courtesy: Newton Minow)

He told the broadcasters at the NAB convention, “When television is good, nothing – not the theater, not the magazine or newspapers – nothing is better. But when it is bad, nothing is worse.”  Then he challenged them to sit down in front of their TV sets a for a day and watch their station’ s programming and added, “I can assure you that what you will observe is a vast wasteland.”

 At the time, in most cities, there were usually only three or four channels to watch, so that gave the three major networks a lot of power to influence the public.  With the advent of cable, that changed, and now we have hundreds of channels to choose from, and there is some really fine programming available, though, it’s definitely not in the majority.

For instance, I just finished watching  the PBS The War of the World series.  It has given me a truly interesting perspective on the causes of the many wars of the 20th century, the most violent century in history.  For instance, Niall Fergurson, the Scottish historian who wrote and narrated the series, maintains that World War III is not something that could happen. It’s something that has already happened.  More on that in a future post.    

 

Taking Stock Philosphically: Social Evolution

December 28, 2011

While we have come a long way in scientifically explaining how we have evolved from a fish to a person,  what I want to know is why, if we are so smart, can’t we evolve socially? Why do we continue the insanity of wars? Why can’t we learn to work as the human family for the common good?

The superb PBS NOVA program on Charles Darwin’s explanation of the evolution of living species and how science is now answering questions that Darwin could not made me reflect, not only on natural evolution, but also, on social evolution.

  Darwin figured out that species do adapt to their environments, do mutate. But he could not explain how. But now, as I learned watching “What Darwin Never Knew,” another superb program in the NOVA series on PBS, scientists are now cracking nature’s biggest mysteries at  the genetic level.  They are, as a NOVA explanation says, “linking the enigmas of evolution to another of nature’s great mysteries, the development of the embryo.”

I do not doubt that humans have physically evolved, that our brains have enlarged over the eons, and that we have some incredibly brilliant scientists, but where we seem to have  not evolved is in our ability to work as a human family to make the world a better place for the human race. Why?

I welcome your thoughts on this, and I have more of my own on which I will elaborate in future posts on this subject.